Although epidemiological and biochemical evidence suggests that aluminium may be associated with Alzheimer's disease (AD), there is no convincing proof of a causal link for aluminium in disease progression. We have completed a two year, single-blind study to investigate whether the progression of dementia could be slowed by the trivalent ion chelator, desferrioxamine. 48 patients with probable AD were randomly assigned to receive desferrioxamine (125 mg intramuscularly twice daily, 5 days per week, for 24 months), oral placebo (lecithin), or no treatment. No significant differences in baseline measures of intelligence, memory, or speech ability existed between groups. Activities of daily living were assessed and videorecorded at 6, 12, 18, and 24 month intervals. There were no differences in the rate of deterioration of patients receiving either placebo or no treatment. Desferrioxamine treatment led to significant reduction in the rate of decline of daily living skills as assessed by both group means (p = 0.03) and variances (p less than 0.04). The mean rate of decline was twice as rapid for the no-treatment group. Appetite (n = 4) and weight (n = 1) loss were the only reported side-effects. We conclude that sustained administration of desferrioxamine may slow the clinical progression of the dementia associated with AD.